Giants of the modern world (GNT)

17 October 2018 - 15:52

The project ‘Giants of the modern world. A new history of heights and health in The Netherlands, 1811-1940’ is granted by the Netherlands organization for Scientific Research (Free Competition Humanities, file number 360-53-190 /208).  ) and is co-financed by Radboud University Nijmegen (RUN), Free University and the IISG. The project started in July 2016 and is supervised by prof. dr. Jan Kok (RUN).

The GIANTS project aims at recovering the heights from HSN Research persons and their relatives from the national militia registers of the Netherlands. During the second half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries, the Netherlands experienced a remarkable growth in stature, both in absolute and relative terms, which resulted in making the Dutch the tallest people on earth.

Given the known impact of early life diseases and nutrition on stature, this trend indicates a remarkable improvement in health. In the proposed project the researchers aim to understand this development, by zooming in on processes at both micro and macro levels. They study the impact on young adult stature of heritability and early life conditions such as family size, parental socioeconomic status, the availability of nutrition and the local disease environment.

Moreover, they look at the consequences of adult height and health on people’s later lives. Were taller people more successful on the marriage market, in their careers, and in reproduction? Are there ‘virtuous cycles’ or selection processes which allowed each successive generation to be taller? At the macro level the role of (changing national and regional socioeconomic) inequality in explaining the Dutch gains in heights and health will be studied.

To fulfill these aims the existing HSN database will be enriched with information on heights of a representative sample of initially (not all of them will be found) about 30,000 individuals, namely of the HSN male persons themselves, as well as of their fathers, brothers and sons. The database is aimed to be finished at the end of 2018. During 2016 a new module of the data entry program to enter militia registers was delivered and at the end of the year already 1,000 recruits were traced (and scanned) in the archives, mainly in Limburg and Noord-Brabant.